A common man marvels at uncommon things. A wise man marvels at the commonplace. CONFUCIUS

Friday, 7 January 2011

The Zen Of Walking (7)

Camino, Spain

Emptiness is the track on which the centred person moves. TSONG KHAPA

The self may not be something, but neither is it nothing. STEPHEN BATCHELOR Buddhism Without Beliefs

Now forget the schema of yesterday's post, forget the framework and the grand design, forget the concept of the path as riddle, metaphor, labyrinth, truth. Forget the arguments, the reasoning, the justifications, the mental constructs of personality, belief, philosophy. Forget it all. For these are mind-illusions, every one.

It's early morning on the Spanish Camino. There's a smell of fresh coffee wafting from the albergue's kitchen and the sound of pilgrims stirring. There's a CD gently playing - opera, I think, Verdi or Puccini - and the trickle of showers and the murmuration of a dozen different languages being spoken. Bring your body, bring your mind fresh to the table, a tabula rasa, fresh from sleep, cleansed of plaguing negative thoughts and emotions. Accept what is, embrace the here and now: the flies buzzing, the hungover hospitalero, the friendly Dutch girl, the serious German, the shy Norwegian, the voluble Italian, the awful coffee, the cheap biscuits. This is it. This is all there ever is. The here and now.

Forget the journey. And the destination. Forget yourself. (What is yourself, anyway?) Forget all those crippling, uncontrollable thoughts and emotions which arise, unbidden, and flood your mind for most of the time. Actually - don't forget them. But watch them come and go, observe them rise into your consciousness,  then subside. Study them with a certain casualness, detachment, even humour. Are they really so important after all? All those regrets, longings, disappointments, loves and hates, feelings of anger and resentment, ambitions, perceptions of failure, grand designs? They come and they go, like dandelion seed in the wind, like driftwood on the river.

The fact is that our real, our most profound journey of discovery - of the world and of the self - is not a real journey at all, as we normally understand the term, involving movement and direction. It's a journey into immediacy and nearness, into the here and now. To make this journey is not actually so difficult, but we need to realise three things, as Steve Hagen says in his book Buddhism Plain And Simple: First, you must truly realize that life is fleeting. Next you must understand that you are already complete, worthy, whole. Finally, you must see that you are your own refuge, your own sanctuary, your own salvation.

The journey starts and ends in us. We may not yet know it, but we have already arrived at our destination. We are already enlightened, if we could only unblock our vision. Santiago, Rome, Jerusalem, Chimayo, Mecca, Uluru. These are just pegs upon which to hang our walk, our pilgrimage; to give us some intellectual and emotional satisfaction, some idea of achievement, some physical, tangible goal, some credence for our mythical walking stories. The real destination is the here and now. Now, now and now. Always now. Right here. And right now.


Trevor Woodford said...

Something that I have understood for sometime.
A most wonderful posting - thank you.

Laura said...

Reading this was a meditation for me in the middle of a busy work day. Thank you.

martine said...

thanks for this thought provoking post

Rachel Fox said...


George said...

After my rather lengthy response to yesterday's post, I will confine myself to one brief comment today: This is a brilliant, beautifully written essay, and it contains the only wisdom we will ever need for our brief transit through life.

Phoenix C. said...

Emptiness on one side, fulness on the other, like when you stick a strip of paper together with a twist in it. (Hope that makes sense without the visual!).

Ruth said...

I sit here in stunned silence, Robert. I don't know that I've ever read anything more beautifully perfect and whole, as a light to perch above my dwelling, the dwelling of myself. From the start where you undo everything.

I should be speechless. I should say nothing. So forget everything I just said.

This is it. Period. Thank you.